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In their letter to HEFCE and OFFA (note 1), Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, recognise that the two bodies already collaborate extensively, and acknowledge their significant contribution to coordinating work on widening participation and access.
The Ministers ask OFFA and HEFCE to now ‘look strategically across investment streams to ensure we achieve synergy and maximise the outcomes for students’. And they emphasise the importance of basing this joint work on evidence of what works in widening access at home and abroad.
The letter reiterates the Government’s belief that access to higher education should be based on ability, not background. It recognises the high levels of spending that will be made available for widening participation through: the Government’s funding for the National Scholarship Programme (note 3); the investment institutions will make in improving access through their access agreements (note 4); and HEFCE’s investment in widening access and improving student retention (note 5).
In welcoming the request Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:
'HEFCE is firmly committed to the principle that everyone with the potential to benefit from successful participation in higher education should have the opportunity to do so. By building a shared strategy with OFFA, we can ensure that all our efforts to support widening participation and student success are pulling together. We welcome this opportunity to work even more closely with OFFA and to build on the expertise of both organisations to create a coherent strategy.'
Sir Martin Harris, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:
'I am very pleased to receive this guidance from Ministers as part of the renewed focus on widening participation and fair access to higher education.
'OFFA and HEFCE already work in close partnership, including jointly monitoring universities’ and colleges’ work on widening participation and improving access. We look forward to building on and strengthening these links as we develop a shared strategy on higher education access and student success that will support the higher education sector and improve social mobility.
'In particular we will carry out analysis to understand the impact of the considerable work universities and colleges do to widen access, to ensure value for money is achieved.'